Vatican doing damage control


ROME (JTA) — The Catholic Church was performing damage control after Pope Benedict XVI revoked the excommunication of a bishop who is a Holocaust denier.

Richard Williamson and three other bishops, who are members of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX, were reinstated Saturday to the Church.

The pope said in his angelus prayer at his public audience Wednesday, "While I renew with affection the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our [Jewish] brothers, I hope the memory of the Shoah will induce humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of hate when it conquers the heart of man."

A front-page editorial in the official Vatican newspaper in its Monday-Tuesday edition called Williamson’s statements "unacceptable."

Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior-general of the SSPX, publicly disavowed statements by Williamson that denied the Holocaust and barred Williamson from speaking further on the issue.

"It is evident that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesial authority if it is not a question of faith and morals," Fellay said in a statement issued from Switzerland Tuesday evening. "Our fraternity does not claim any authority over other questions."

Fellay added, "With great sadness we acknowledge the extent to which the violation of this mandate has damaged our mission. The statements of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any way the position of our society."

Meanwhile, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel broke off official ties with the Vatican on Tuesday over the reinstatement and canceled a meeting scheduled for March in Rome with the pope’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

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